You are here

Lecture 9: The Christianity of Augustine and of the Roman Church

DURING the decades in which the Church of the East endeavoured to bring to an ultimate conclusion the dogmas about the Trinitarian essence of God and the two natures of Christ, and as it were to bury in these abstractions of a transcendental speculation the living religious faith of Christianity, there worked in the West a man who was destined to vivify this faith again on the basis of inmost personal experience, and thereby to give to the Western Church the impulse and the power for further independent development. This was the great Church Father Augustine, the Bishop of the North African city, Hippo Regius, who was able to breathe a new spirit into the traditional formulas of the ecclesiastical theology by turning the theological thinking from the airy and cold heights of transcendental speculation back to the inner life of the human soul, and by finding in the experiences of sin and grace the foundation for the structure of the ecclesiastical faith and life. After a wild youth tossed about by sensuous passion and theoretical scepticism, the Platonic philosophy had first helped him to reach an ideal view of the world. But, profoundly as it impressed his reflective understanding, it was yet unable to give his passionate heart the longed-for peace. This he found only when, under the guidance of the apostle Paul, whose spirit was so intimately related with his own, he came to understand Christianity as the religion of redemption and grace. From that time he regarded it as his task to work the Platonic doctrine of God and the Pauline doctrine of salvation into a whole by combining them with each other and with the dogmas of the Church—a whole which should at once satisfy both the reason of the thinking Christian and the need of faith in the Christian community, and which should at the same time serve as a support for the striving of the Church for the domination of the world. Corresponding to this his personal development, the theology of Augustine had three main parts, which partly support and also partly contradict each other — namely, the doctrine of God, of man's salvation and misery, and of the Church as the earthly City of God (Civilas Dei), in which Divine truth and grace are embodied as ecclesiastical authority and as a sacramental institution.

What is specially significant in Augustine's Doctrine of God is, that he first derived the consciousness of God from the self-consciousness. God is to him the ideal and the presupposition of what he finds by self-observation in his own soul. In the soul he finds the image of the Trinity; for we are, we know our being, and we love this being and knowing. The being which we find present in us and the world is, however, a changeable thing, and is therefore not true being, but has the not-being always in itself; this untrue being presupposes a true unchangeable Being which is God. Further, in our knowing we are conscious that we do not make the truth itself, but that we only become aware of the truth, which, being independent of us, must be superior and anterior to all knowing minds. This eternal and unchangeable truth which must be presupposed in all our participation in truth, is God, whose Being consequently is Spiritual Being, unity of Being and Knowing, perfect Wisdom and Beauty, which gives itself to be recognised in the artistic order of the world. Finally, we find, as the inmost essence of our soul, the activity of willing, that desire of good which feels itself satisfied with no limited good; and even in its unrest, its insatiable longing for greater good, there is already betrayed its destination for a highest good. But what can be the highest good for our soul? Only that which makes it free from the inner discord and the wretched unfreedom of its natural impulses, and which makes it one in itself. But the good alone is such, in so far as it becomes to us not merely a commanding law but the object of our love, so that we “no longer willed what we willed, and only now will what God wills.” In this experience that the good becomes to us the highest good and the liberating power, we recognise the working of God, who consequently is not merely the highest Being and Knowing, but also the highest goodness, the source and power of all good, perfect love or grace. As God is the being in all existence, and as He is the Truth in all knowing and the Beauty in all feeling, He is also the Love in all willing, that which liberates the activity of willing from unfreedom and makes it one with the “blessed necessity of the good.” To depend on God is the soul's highest good; it is only in Him who has created us for Himself that our heart can come to rest. In this tendency of our heart to God, and this satisfaction in God, lies the deepest proof of the fact that He is the existing Goodness, the almighty Love.

This derivation of the consciousness of God from the Christian pious self-consciousness, must be reckoned among the deepest which has ever been thought and said regarding it. We may recognise in it that it weds fruitfully the Platonic idealism with Christian experience, and its influence may be perceived both in the philosophical speculation and in the religious mysticism of the following time. As for the rest, we have to distinguish in Augustine's Doctrine of God two different sides that are not in accord with each other: a Neo Platonic side, which was accentuated in the struggle against the Manichæans; and the ecclesiastical dogmatic side, which was developed in the struggle against the Pelagians. The former consists in such an abstract apprehension of the simplicity of God, that in it all distinction of attributes and all knowableness of the Divine nature threaten to be abolished. Undoubtedly we must recognise the energy of the thinking with which Augustine endeavoured to deny all finiteness, temporalness, and spatiality, changeableness and limitedness, and consequently all anthropomorphism of the Divine essence. But the question cannot be suppressed, How does the triad of the Trinitarian Persons, even if these “Persons” were to be reduced to “relations” of the inner Divine Being, accord with the asserted simplicity of God, in which there is to be no distinction of substance and attribute, of essence and operation? The striving of Augustine to resolve the tritheism into a true unity must indeed be recognised, but the authoritatively established dogma hindered him from strictly drawing the consequence. Further, the question arises as to how the acceptance of a beginning and end of the world accords with the conception of the eternity of God as a continually unmoved presence? With such a beginning and end, would there not also come a change into His knowing and working? And then in particular, How does the opposition of the decree of election and reprobation in God and the twofold issue of the world in eternal blessedness and eternal damnation, accord with the essence of God as the highest good and omnipotent love? Here we stand manifestly before an insoluble contradiction which can only be psychologically explained from the fact that, in consequence of the history of his life, two incompatible souls existed together in Augustine—namely, the philosophical thinker and the orthodox dogmatist and condemner of heretics.

This discordance shows itself especially in Augustine's Doctrine of Man, which fashioned itself quite differently according to the front presented at the time in the course of his combating of heretics (Manichæans, Pelagians, Donatists). In opposition to the Manichæans, Augustine emphasised the position that man has been created by God and for God, and that he was created good with the capacity and freedom for all that is good. He was subjected to no compulsion of matter, nor did he find himself in any discord between the flesh and between the spirit, but the body was completely and willingly subject to the spirit as the spirit was to God. The original state of man was a state of harmony on all sides both of his powers with each other and of his wants with the conditions of the world,—a state, therefore, of perfectness and happiness. But, as Augustine further taught in conflict with the Pelagians, this excellent state lasted only for the very short time from the Creation to the Fall. The first act of man's freedom was an abuse of it in opposition to God, whereby freedom and all good capacities were lost again for mankind and were changed into their opposite. Certainly when one looks more closely at it, the Fall was only the appearing of the evil which was already present in a hidden form; for the evil deed must, as Augustine himself says, have an evil will preceding it, and this will could only consist in pride, the desire after godless self-exaltation. “If man had not already begun to please himself, the Devil would not have been able to bring him to a fall.” And that this hidden pride broke out in open sin, as Augustine adds, was so far good, as it could not have been healed without this outbreak. Regarded from this point of view, the Fall was not therefore so much the ground of men's becoming bad as rather the manifestation of their latent evil and the necessary means for its being healed. It would have been a consequence of this view to judge the natural state of man less as guilt worthy of condemnation than as a weakness and disease worthy of compassion. But just in order to emphasise sharply the guilty character of the natural sinfulness and the punishableness of unredeemed men, Augustine, on account of this a priori dogmatic necessity, prefixed the fiction of the sinless state of man and of his initial freedom for all that is good.

From the bright foil of this initial perfectness the dark image of the following corruption, as Augustine described it, stands forth so much the more effectively. Because man had abandoned God in a free act he was now abandoned by God, and thereby he fell under the natural propensity to evil irretrievably: freedom for the good was wholly lost, and there only still remained freedom for evil; the previous harmony of the lower and higher powers of the soul was dissolved, and became dominion of the flesh over the spirit or unbridled sensuous concupiscence. In short, in place of the initial possibility of not sinning there now entered the fearful necessity of sinning, and in the place of the possibility of riot dying there came in the necessity of dying. And these consequences did not remain limited to the first parents; for seeing that Adam had sinned as the progenitor of the whole race, all his offspring had at the same time sinned in him — which Augustine believed that he could establish by his false interpretation of the Pauline words in Romans v. 12 (έ́φ ¨ώ=in quo omnes peccaverunt)—and accordingly along with Adam the whole human race at the same time fell under the fatality of sin and death. The sinful corruption was inherited henceforth as a natural condition from generation to generation. But although it is inherited by every human child as a natural state quite independent of his own freewill, it is yet, according to Augustine, for the new-born child, already guilt deserving condemnation; for, as he very significantly asks, what would baptism be otherwise necessary to children for, if it were not to forgive them a state of guilt? And what can this be but just the guilt of the original sin? In this ecclesiastical postulate that baptism was already necessary to the children for their salvation, we have therefore to see one of the main grounds of Augustine's harsh doctrine of original sin; and it was supplemented by the effects of his Manichæan period, during which he held a physical and dualistic view of evil which he never completely overcame. Besides his own moral experiences, the severe struggles with his passionate and hot-blooded African temperament also come into consideration as a psychological ground for explaining his dogmatic theory.

Deeply as Augustine had felt the misery of sin, so deep likewise was his desire for redemption through Divine grace. Here he touches at once all the inmost Christian experiences which find their echo in every pious soul:—

“Who will give me to rest in Thee? Who will give me that Thou shalt come into my heart and intoxicate it so that I may forget my evils and embrace Thee, my one good? What art Thou to me? Be merciful that I may speak. What am I to Thee, that Thou commandest Thyself to be loved by me, and if I do it not Thou art angry with me and threatenest terrible miseries? Say to my soul, I am thy salvation. Let me run after Thy voice, and lay hold of Thee. Hide not Thy face from me. I will die, yet not die, that I may behold it. The house of my soul is narrow. In order that Thou mayest come to it, let it be widened by Thee. It is in ruins; repair it. There are things in it which offend Thy eyes: I confess and know it. But who will cleanse it? Or to whom else but Thee shall I call? Give what Thou commandest, and command what Thou wishest.”

Divine grace shows itself, according to Augustine, not merely in forgiving but also in giving, not merely in teaching about the good but in working the inclination and power for the good. He who only knows the good without also doing it, has received this knowledge not from grace but from the law, not through the Spirit but through the letter. As the mystery of our moral misery lies in the inner division of the will that it wills the good and yet does not do it, and therefore partly wills and partly does not will, so the mystery of grace lies in this, that it makes the good not merely the law of the will but the object of its love, and consequently effectuates the actual willing and accomplishing of the good. But if it is grace which first makes the willing of the good efficacious, it cannot be deserved by the good performances of man himself. Man cannot transform himself out of an evil tree into a good one, he can only be transformed by Him who is at all times good. Nor is grace participated in by man because he is already a believer, but in order that he might become such; not because he has deserved it by good works, but in order that he might obtain the merit of good works. What merits can we ever have before we love God? And how can we love God as we ought to love Him if we did not receive such a love from Him who first loved us? What can we do that is good without such a love? Or how can we not do good with such a love? If virtue is only mighty in weakness, no one becomes perfect who does not recognise the weakness in himself and has the good vouchsafed to him as a gift of grace, as we may see by the example of Paul, and even by the little children who, as Augustine again very significantly remarks, receive the grace of baptism without their merit—nay, even in spite of their resistance as announced by their crying. Yet the essence of grace does not consist merely in this, that it is bestowed undeservedly, but that it alone works undividedly the whole salvation from beginning to end. Yet the freewill is not abolished by it, but rather first established, because it heals the will of its unfreedom and fills it with love for righteousness. It is just the will which can no longer serve sin that is free; but this is not the presupposition but the effect of grace. But if grace is the unconditioned and solely operative cause of salvation, the ground of its operating in some and not operating in the case of others cannot be sought on the side of man, but can only lie in the will of God, in His free election of some and rejection of others. The communication of grace is therefore, according to Augustine, the manifestation of the eternal predestination which has selected out of the general mass of corruption a definite number of men for blessedness. The ground of this selection of some before others does not lie in men but only in the groundless will of God, which stands unchangeably fast and irresistibly realises itself in the elect in the life in time. The elect is not only called efficaciously to faith, but is also kept by the gift of perseverance in faith to the end. If cases of experience appear to testify against this, such as that of a believer having fallen, then such a fall was either only apparent and transitory, and the fallen one was again restored before death, or the election of such a one was merely apparent. For this reason no one can know his election with certainty before the end. Augustine holds this just to be the advantage of this hard doctrine, that it keeps the man from false security and pride. And in fact so much is clear, that man cannot have a certainty of salvation, if it rest upon a hidden decree of electing grace; for who belongs to its elect ones, is a secret of God which can never be known by man. The abstract supernaturalism of Augustine's conception of grace leads logically to this as the result of his doctrine of predestination—a result which is as repugnant to pious feeling as to the sound understanding. The salvation which is grounded only outside of man, in the transcendent will of God, continues to be always a problematical thing, a dark mystery for the self-consciousness of man. If the relationship of man to God rests not upon the attitude of his own will, which surrenders itself to the Divine will, and knows itself to be one with it, then the man cannot reach an inner certainty in the faith of his salvation. So much the more is he driven to seek a substitute for this want of immediate self-certainty in the external supports of salvation, in the authority of the Church and its means of grace.

The doctrine of the Church, therefore, forms in Augustine the complement to his doctrine of grace. The grace which is in itself transcendent and hidden, comes to its present and perceivable manifestation in the Church as the historically organised institution of salvation. The Church is the surety of all truth, and the dispenser of all grace. On the right relationship to it, therefore, depends at last all the religious salvation of man. “He has not the Holy Spirit who is out of the Church; no one has the sacrament nor justification so long as he is separated from the unity of the body of Christ; one may have everything outside of the Church with the exception of salvation. And if one believes that he can lead a good life, yet, because of this one offence, he will not have part in life, but the wrath of God abides on him who is separated from the Church.” The animating and connecting soul of this body is the spirit of love; hence separation from the Church is a breach of love; but without love no appropriation of salvation is possible. It is not in the subjective purity of the individual members that the decisive mark of the true Church lies, as was thought by the Donatists; but, according to Augustine, its essence is to be sought in this, that it is in possession of objective grace and means of grace. Donatism, he says, rests upon self-righteousness, the Catholic Church upon the righteousness of Christ; the schismatics appeal to subjective opinions and testimonies such as visions, the hearing of prayer, and suchlike. The Catholic Church, however, appeals to the testimony of God in the Holy Scripture. The only true testimony is the Law and the Prophets; all else is but the smoke of earthly delusions compared with this thunder and lightning from above. Because it has this Scriptural testimony for itself, the Catholic Church is therefore the sole true Church; it is the City upon the hill which is manifest to all the world, the Ark of Noah in which alone is to be found safety from the corruption of the world. It is the only Church identical with itself in all countries and at all times, held together by the one spirit of Christ and his organ the Episcopate. But it is also the Holy Church, not indeed in the sense of the Donatists; for it is only the triumphant Church of the consummation that can be a pure community of saints, and not yet the earthly City of God, which is necessarily mixed of good and evil. Yet the earthly Church already possesses the predicate of holiness in a twofold sense: partly because it takes upon itself the punishing and reproving of the godless, in the exercise of Church discipline; and partly, in particular, because it possesses in the sacraments the efficient means of salvation and sanctification for its members.

The Sacrament of Baptism is of the greatest importance to Augustine; it effects forgiveness of original guilt and infuses hidden grace in a hidden manner into the children, and makes them thereby members of the body of Christ. That without baptism all, even the little children, are subject to damnation, follows from Augustine's doctrine of Original Sin, which again is demonstrated by the actually existing practice of child-baptism. Of course this proof in a circle is without logical demonstrative force, but it is extremely significant for the Augustinian theology, in which the Manichæan pessimism forms throughout the foil for the glorification of the Church and for its claim to being the sole medium of salvation. And because Augustine's exclusive theocratic conception of the Church lay far from the thought of the Greeks with their more human than political way of thinking, they could not acquire a taste for his harsh doctrine of sin and grace. To them grace, with all its supernaturalness, was still always a something implanted in man himself, in his nature as related to God. It was a universal human endowment which is awakened and animated by the Christian revelation. The exclusively supernaturalistic view of grace, that it is infused in man from without through a sacramental act of the Church, was alien to the broad and idealistic way of thinking of the Greek Fathers, and was first brought into the Christian dogmatics by Augustine — a consequence partly of his Manichæan Anthropology and partly of his theocratic ideal of the Church. Besides, it is easy to see that upon this point Augustine's doctrine of grace comes into discordance even with itself. For if baptism is actually an infusion of grace, then either all the baptised must become participative of salvation, or the perdition of many of the baptised must be their own fault, and in both cases a particular predestination is excluded. On the other hand, if we start from this doctrine, then it is impossible to see in baptism an efficacious communication of grace, and in the fact of externally belonging to the Church an objective guarantee of salvation. The unconditionedness of the election of grace, and the conditionedness of salvation by the means of grace of the visible Church, are two incompatible theories. In Augustine they were united, but afterwards they were severed from each other in such a way that the Church first put itself in the place of grace in medieval Catholicism, and afterwards grace took the place of the Church in the Reformation and in Protestantism.

As the Church is the sole possessor of the means of grace, it is also the sole and infallible authority in matters of religious truth. It is this just in virtue of its catholicity and apostolicity. “What the whole Church holds, and was observed at all times, one must in truth believe that it is handed down by apostolical authority.” Usually, indeed, Augustine founds the authority of the Church upon that of the Holy Scripture; but occasionally, as, for example, when the catholicity of certain Biblical books is called in question by heretics, he has no hesitation in simply inverting the relationship of the two. “I would myself not believe the Gospel, if the authority of the Church did not determine me.” If it is further asked what determines us to believe in this authority, then Augustine refers partly to the many and great miracles which were done by Christ and the apostles, and which were still wont to take place in the Church, and partly to the multitude of believers, to the constant spread of the one universal Church which extends over all peoples, and against which neither the Christian sects nor the philosophical schools can come into consideration. Both of these Augustine reproaches with the intellectual subjectivism which accompanies moral selfishness, vanity, and pride. Philosophy, as Augustine judged in his later period, does indeed seek God, but not in a pious way: it has some elements of truth, but only in the form of human opinions, not in the respect-commanding form of authority resting upon Divine revelation. Faith in the Divine authority of the Church must therefore, as Augustine unwarrantably inculcates, precede all true knowledge as its starting-point and established basis. “We must first believe without insight into the thing; such a faith is the surest way to rational knowledge, and the only condition by which the healing again of sick souls becomes possible.” Nevertheless, Augustine is as little inclined as the Alexandrian Fathers to have rational thinking excluded by faith. Faith, he strikingly observes, cannot stand in exclusive opposition to reason, because it is itself only possible through the rational capacity of man, and therefore always already contains implicitly a certain thinking which makes possible and demands a development to scientific knowledge or theology. “What we hold fast in certainty of faith, has also to be made apprehensible by the supervenient light of reason.” That for this purpose philosophy is necessary, not indeed that of a definite school, but at least the philosophical cultivation of thinking generally, has never been denied by Augustine: he repudiates equally those who do not philosophise when they occupy themselves with religious questions, and those who do not think piously in philosophy. (“Repudiatis omnibus qui neque in sacris philosophantur neque in philosophia consecrantur, tenenda est nobis Christiana religio et ejus ecclesiæ communicatio, quæ est catholica.”—Aug., De vera religione, 12.)

In particular, he demands that the Christian shall not be afraid of what is true in the Platonic doctrine, but appropriate it for his own use; for he has to know that truth, wherever he may find it, belongs to his Lord. But the highest ideal of the Christians, even Augustine, like the Alexandrians, finds in a knowledge of God which has immediately grown out of the inner experience of the pious man. “Roam not away beyond thyself ; turn into thyself; in the inner man dwells the truth; seek it in the stillness and leisure of thy spirit. To love God is to know God; the purer the heart is from all defilement, so much the more capable is it of beholding the truth; thereby the Christian becomes the law itself according to which he judges everything and about which no one can judge.” By the path, therefore, of self-knowledge and self-purification, of speculation and ascetic mysticism, that autonomous self-certainty is won which Paul had already designated (1 Cor. ii. 15) as the ideal of the truly spiritual man—a self-certainty which needs no longer the external supports of authority, but makes itself independent even of its enactment. With this Augustine pointed to the path of mysticism which, in the Middle Ages, maintained the right of inward freedom, and which prepared for the Reformation; while at the same time, by his accentuation of the authority of the Church, and by his demand to put philosophical thinking into the service of its authority, and to make faith intelligible by reason, lie has been the founder of Scholasticism.

Augustine's great work on “the City of God” (‘De Civitate Dei’) may be called a programme of the medieval view of the world. The Church is here opposed to the Roman world-state as the earthly manifestation of the God-state, and so that the opposition of the two is one in principle, with its origin in the pre-mundane fall of the heavenly spirits and its consummation in the blessedness and damnation of eternity. The world-state takes its earthly beginning from Cain, the fratricide and type of Romulus; the God-state from Abel, the pious martyr. The worldstate has its course through heathenism, especially through the two great empires of the Assyrians and Romans; the God-state has its course through the history of Israel and of the Christian Church. The essential difference between them consists in this, that in the earthly state self-love, amounting to contempt of God, rules; while in the God-state the love of God, going as far as contempt of self, rules. Ambition and the desire of glory were, as Augustine seeks to prove in detail, the impelling motives of the conduct of the Romans; their empire was nothing but a great robbery; even the virtues of the best, because they had not love to God but to earthly things as their highest motive, were at bottom only splendid vices. Yet God has not willed to leave unrewarded the relative goodness which lay in the Roman civil virtues, patriotism, and valour; and He has therefore bestowed upon the Romans earthly fame and universal dominion over all the peoples. But with this they have also had their reward: in spite of all their apparent virtues, which may still serve in a certain sense as an example to the Christians, they are yet predestined to share eternal punishment with the devil. But in holding this position, Augustine still recognises that even the earthly peace, for the establishment of which the world-state provides by its laws and magistrates, is a relative good which even the citizens of the God-state, so long as they live as strangers in this world, use and prize, and therefore they also in earthly things obey the laws of the State. But the citizens of the God-state do not see their peculiar good in this earthly peace and the other earthly goods which belong to the world-state, but in the heavenly peace which they already enjoy in faith now, and will yet enjoy in the vision of God. Regarded from the point of view of this perfect good all the earthly goods appear to them as great misery, and the civil activity directed towards these goods therefore also appear to them as worthless; and even justice is denied to the State, in so far as it does not above all give to God what is God's. Because the heathen State serves the demons instead of God, it can never have civil rights. Augustine therefore saw in the State as such, in so far as it would be an independent community for the ordering of right, nothing that is truly good, but only an organisation of sinful selfishness which serves the demons more than God. To him the only order resting upon Divine right was the God-state of the Church. And from this followed naturally the practical conclusion that the State has to subordinate itself to the Church, and to lend its services for her ends. Augustine calls the rulers happy who make their power minister to the spread of religion; and on the occasion of the Donatist controversy he asserted not merely the justification, but even the obligation, of the civil magistrate to persecute the heretics and schismatics. Appealing to the parable in the Gospels, he called upon the civil authority first to invite the heretics peacefully to conversion; and if this availed nothing, then to compel them to come in (to the Orthodox Church). Such a wholesome compulsion to good is not hardness but beneficence, a bitter but useful medicine. How much misery this sophistry, thus sanctioned by Augustine, has brought upon Christendom, is well known.

If we now review the theology of Augustine, the fundamental thoughts of which I have attempted to exhibit, two main tendencies stand out in it prominently before our view: first, its harsh supernaturalism, according to which the Christian salvation stands in mere opposition to human nature, and can only come to it from without through a miracle; secondly, its Hierarchism, according to which the Church organised in the clergy is the earthly realisation of the heavenly God-state, and has to subject the world to the purposes of the supramundane State or City of God, and to communicate and guarantee to it supernatural salvation through the permanent miracle of a sacramental operation. The supernaturalism is indeed common to the Augustinian theology with the Alexandrian theology; but in the latter, with all the transcendence of the God-man, the Greek fundamental thought of the affinity of human nature with God, and its participation in the divine Logos in virtue of its moral constitution, remained too vital in their consciousness for the Alexandrians to have come to the dualistic sharpening of the opposition between the natural man and a supernatural salvation as it appears in Augustine. The matter has indeed also its obverse side. While in Augustine the opposition was transferred from theology to anthropology, and was turned from a metaphysical into a moral religious opposition, it was thereby primarily sharpened for the religious feeling; but the overcoming of it in the religious self-consciousness was at the same time made possible on the basis of an inner experience of sin and grace. For this opposition of states of consciousness must ultimately find its unity above the opposition in the essence of the self-conscious spirit, when grace is recognised as one with the true freedom of man, or with the essential nature of his rational will, and is no longer regarded as an extraneous compelling and magical power of will. Indications of this view are already found everywhere in Augustine whenever he simply speaks the language of immediate religious experience, and does not dogmatise in the domain of ecclesiastical presuppositions and interests. And therefore it is quite conceivable that the Augustinian theology, even more than the Alexandrian, contained the starting-points and germs of that individualistic mysticism which afterwards relaxed and ultimately broke down dogmatism.

The same holds true of the other side of the Augustinian theology. That salvation, while transcendent in itself, has its earthly presence in the working of the Church, and indeed in its ascetic negation of the world as well as in its sacramental worship, was pointed out in the last lecture as a characteristic feature of the Alexandrian theology also. Here, too, the Church is the present actualisation of salvation in the world; but it is so as the community of the ascetic saints, or the world-fleeing monks, and as the possessor and dispenser of the mysteries of the magical ritualistic means of grace. Contemplative monasticism and a priesthood administering the Divine mysteries is here the main thing. But in Augustine appears the new thought, a thought infinitely important for the future of Western Christendom, that the Church as a hierarchically organised society is the earthly exhibition of the heavenly City of God, and as such it has the task not merely ascetically to negate and ritually to purify the world, but also and specially to subject it to the supramundane ends of the God-state. Not monastic contemplation and ritual mysticism, but practical conquest and dominion of the world by the theocratically organised Church, is here the main thing. The opposition of Church and world, which in the East was naturally of a more passive and defensive kind, is made by Augustine for the West into an active and aggressive opposition. Certainly this was also primarily a powerful sharpening of the opposition corresponding to the sharpening of supernaturalism in Augustine's doctrine of salvation. As the individual Christian has to experience in himself the tension and the conflict of the hostile principles of sin and grace, and is thereby kept in constant psychical agitation and activity, so the Western Christendom ruled by Augustine has to struggle through the conflict between the great historical forces of Church and State, and thereby its history obtains a violent dramatic movement, with which the quiet rest of the East so strangely contrasts. But here, again, that which appears primarily as a sharpening of the opposition was yet in truth only the means for overcoming it. For it was just by the Church taking up aggressively the conflict with the world and seeking to conquer the world for its ends—to subject the world to its ideas, and, in short, to ecclesiasticise it—that it thereby became possible for the Christian principle to be so fundamentally worked into the world, and to be so inwardly appropriated by it, that the world at last having become Christian could throw off the ecclesiastical fetters and stand upon its own feet; that is to say, could find and realise in the Christian moral humanity the true reality of the kingdom of God. The hierarchical domination of the world by the Church was a providential means of education for the nations of the world in order to lead them to that Christian perfection which in the surrender of the self to the universal ends of the kingdom of God does not lose its own freedom but first truly wins it, and which in the subordination of all temporal goods to the eternal good of moral goodness wins the heavenly peace and in addition receives the peace of earth—that is, the rational ordering of the earthly goods. As Christ had said, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all other things shall be added unto you.” The medieval Church was destined to impress this great principle on the world, that we have to give up all that is ours for the unconditioned end of the Divinely good. That it identified this ideal end with its ecclesiastical ends, and sought to subject the kingdoms of the world to its ecclesiastico - hierarchical domination, was certainly a great error; but it was at the same time the necessary means for the education of the peoples to the freedom of the children of God, which rests upon obedience and love, and knows the kingdom of God as present in the duties and goods of moral society.

At the time when Augustine was writing his work ‘De Civitate Dei,’ in which he set forth the victory of the God-state over the world-state as a postulate of faith, the basis for the fulfilment of this postulate was laid by certain events which belong to universal history. The Germanic races broke the Roman Empire to pieces and took possession of its lands. Amidst the universal deluge the Roman Church showed itself as the fixed rock of Peter on which the billows that overthrew the ancient world broke; and its organisations culminating in the Bishop of Rome remained the only permanent thing amid the universal change of things. It thus became the inheritrix of the Roman Empire and the preserver of the ancient culture which was taken up into the faith and practice of the Church. The task fell to it to be the means of conveying this inheritance of the past to the Germanic peoples, and of subjecting the conquerors of the old Roman secular State to the new Roman Divine State. It was, in fact, no easy task to bring these Germans, with their joyous worldly life and pride in their freedom, under the ascetic hierarchical system of the Church. But great as were the difficulties, and tenacious as was the patience which the new conquest of the Western world required, yet at the same time this new soil was favourable for a victory of the Church, and so much the more complete was it to be. Here the Church had no longer to combat with an old civilisation, but met the crude uncivilised state and the fresh receptivity of the Germanic peoples with the finished system of its doctrine and constitution and with the treasure of the ancient culture, and thus stood towards them in the position of the far superior teacher and educator. Moreover, the political relationships of the next centuries became such that they favoured in many ways the striving of the Church for universal domination. The Frankish kings, the Carlovingian kings, and later the Saxon emperors, needed the help of the Church, and supported it at first in their political interest; but in these combinations of the political and ecclesiastical powers the Church always carried away the lion's share. In it as the representative of the Divine State lay the central idea on which the Roman-German empire grounded its claim to universal dominion. It was therefore natural that, in connection with the new revival of the ecclesiastical spirit which in the eleventh century proceeded from the Western Monasticism, the Church should have been able to divest itself of all its previous dependence on the State, and to carry through its claim to freedom—that is to say, to the command of the State. With the victory of the monk-Pope Gregory VII. over the Emperor Henry IV., the victory of the Church over the secular State was also decided. What Augustine had once beheld in the spirit had thereby become reality; the work which the old Church had left still incomplete was now at last accomplished.

The spirit of the medieval Christianity, whose classical period covers the next two centuries after Gregory VII., could not be more aptly described than has been done in the thoughtful work of Eicken on the Medieval View of the World. Allow me, then, as the close of my lecture to-day, to borrow some sentences from it:—

“Asceticism and churchly government of the world, these two mutually conditioned presuppositions of the supersensible Divine State, had become within that period, even more than in Christian antiquity, the moving forces of the life of the peoples; they had penetrated into the inmost life of the Western nations. The political and economical existence of the latter, and science and art, were determined, even to the smallest relations of daily life, by these two thoughts of the ecclesiastical system. The Middle Ages bore in their civilisation the pain of world-negation on the one side, and the violent character of world-conquest on the other side. The symbol of the Christian religion, the cross, at the same time was to the Middle Ages ‘the sign of the mortification’ as well as of ‘the overcoming of the world.’ The Middle Ages overcame and dominated the world by negating it; to die to the world meant the same as to live to the Church. The fulfilment of the three ascetic virtues—Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience — thus made it a task how to sacrifice the whole personality with its material and spiritual interests to the Church. In the same proportion as the world was negated on the one side, the Church must also be affirmed on the other side. The enhancement of asceticism had as its necessary consequence the corresponding enhancement of the secular power of the Church. The negation of the world and the ecclesiastical domination of the world were, in the view of the Middle Ages, synonymous conceptions. In the exhausting prosecution of these two strivings, as they mutually condition each other, lay the essential nature of the medieval culture. It is only from this point of view that the history of the Middle Ages can be understood. But while the thought of the domination of the world by the Church drew all things into its circle of action, the hierarchical principle led the Church, while striving in its transcendental metaphysics to get away from the world, back into the midst of the interests of the world. For in the measure in which the power of the Church rose, the Church itself became conformed to the world. As it was its task to combine all the goods and powers of the world under its despotic command, the world thus formed the whole substance of its existence. The Church was the centre in which all secular powers had their confluence. Through the virtue of poverty the Church acquired immense riches; through the virtue of obedience it grew to be the greatest and most potent State which had ever been; and finally, through the virtue of chastity it obtained an incomparable army of officials, capable of being moved in an unrivalled way, and ready for conflict at all times and in every place. The supersensible idea of Christianity became transformed in the Church, with logical consequence in every department of its ethics, into the opposite systematic affirmation of the life of sense. The world-ruling tendency of the Roman Church formed the counterpoise to the ascetic supersensible idea of the Christian metaphysics. Notwithstanding that the life of the Middle Ages in State and family, in economics, law, art, and science, turned itself away from the world of sense, it strove back again to the world in the Church with the same zeal. In this circle lay the pathos of the medieval history.”

The idea of the Middle Ages, the supersensible Divine State, refuted itself by the consequences of its own principle; the greatest development of its power was at the same time the cause of its dissolution. It was precisely the Crusades, in which the Divine State of the Roman Church found its highest realisation, which led all the departments of life—the State, industry, art, and science—back to secularism. It was the Crusades, in which the fraternalising of the Christian nations and the devotion of the forces of the State to the ends of the Church attained their culmination, which served to sharpen the national oppositions and to strengthen the independent claims of the political powers. Further, it was the Crusades, in which the Christian peoples gave up their possessions and life with glad willingness in order to wrest the Holy Land from the infidel, that became the cause of an economic development, of a material and spiritual enrichment of life, which riveted the Christian peoples more firmly than ever to the earth. In the course of the following centuries one domain after the other detached itself from the ascetic hierarchical system of the Divine State in order to fashion itself independently according to its own ends. But as these practical strivings sought to break away from the world - dominating thought of the Church, they at the same time remained standing upon the basis of it—namely, the sacramental character of the priesthood. There arose thereby a conflict between practical morality and the religious system—a conflict which found a solution in the Reformation of the Sixteenth Century, when it repudiated the sacramental priesthood and broke a free path for the immanent ethic of the practical life.

This great subject will be discussed in my next and last lecture.